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Re: [school-discuss] OT: Failure to unsubscribe properly: a case of learned helplessness

--- "David M. Bucknell" <dbucknell@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> You beautifully identify the reason it is qixotic to try to "help" 
> someone learn with new technologies.

And you beautifully identifies the reason it is quixotic to "help"
someone learn with new technologies when the facilitator is itself
unfamiliar with the new "help" that is required. Like how to use a
spell checker to avoid confusion, rather than relying on frail memory
and clumsy fingers!

Lets take this word "qixotic". Always interested in a new word, I
looked it up, was it somehow related? I wanted to know:

"Sorry, no dictionaries indexed in the selected category contain the
word qixotic."

Ah, a splling mistake or a typo! Never mind, just don't write your code
with the same flexible perameters! 
But my very helpful and much used on-line dictionary search page
[http://www.onelook.com/?w=qixotic&ls=a] does not just drop me right in
a the murky pond of ignorance. 
We are talking one very new, very technological back office here and it
wants to "help". So it goes on:

"Perhaps you meant:
    quixotic		(found in 22 dictionaries)
If not, you might try using the wildcards * and ? to find the word
you're looking for. For example, use
    qixo*		to search for words beginning with qixo, or
    *otic		to search for words ending with otic

If you're sure it's a word, try doing a general web search for qixotic:
  Google, AltaVista, other sources...

Search completed in 0.104 seconds.

(The top 5 results agree with each other, one can assume "quixotic" was
what was meant)

1)  Impulsive.
2) romantic to extravagance; absurdly chivalric; apt to be deluded
3) absurdly and impractically chivalrous; ridiculously idealistic
4) Possessing or acting with the desire to do noble and romantic deeds,
without thought of realism and practicality.
5)  impractically idealistic or fanciful"

I would say onelook.com is an good example of technological "help"
(just one of the many available covering diverse topics that years
could be devoted just reading the title pages).

I now know it was definitely a typo and how to correctly spell
Further, I can define the word as being perhaps not the right
Far too many "new technologies" in second-to-second (ever mind
day-to-day) use, were at the outset described as "quixotic" for the
word to serve as anything other than an embarrassment for the author in
years to come.

It is not the attempt to use new technologies that is quixotic, it is
the "teaching", or shall we say "help" process that is quixotic. 

In former times locomotion was achieved by shoveling coals into a
boiler, the advent of the I.C. engine did not mean that the petrol was
poured by hand into the carburettor; there was a lever and later a
pedal for this function. To propel this vehicle requires not just
another learning process; one where you are in an abstracted or remote
position (ie. pushing a pedal v. shovelling the stuff in by hand), but
another "teaching" process. Another kind of "help" is required.

In former times I would quite happily take the carburettor out of my
car and clean it, a vital part of the keeping the machine running
smoothly, on my present car if something goes wrong with the
carburettor (and this I know from experience) 
a) I don't even know where the carburettor is. 
b) Even if I did I wouldn't know what to do with it.
c) I would not have the right tools.

In short, though I can strip a 2 stroke down and rebuild it, and indeed
have taught and certainly provided "help" for others in this area, I am
ill educated when it comes to modern motor mechanics. And I don't want
to be! I am happy the mechanic knows how to read the manual. It's all
Dutch to me and I have other things to do I find more pleasing and
profitable that further destroying my car.

Regarding using new technologies to "help"; to provide "relevant help"
rather than applying traditional teaching techniques that are not
applicable, would go a long way in easing the "anxiety" of both
facilitator and student.

> > On Thu, 2006-04-13 at 15:53 -0500, Darryl Caldwell wrote:

> > to the head-spinning pace of change over those twelve years.  In
> spite
> > of the fact that list unsbscription instructions are simple and are
> > usually readily accessible, 

Really? I would say not.

I am a member of many lists using different systems. At the foot of
every mail from those "well organised" lists, that is, those lists
using new technologies to "help", one finds, for example,  the

Um sich von der Group abzumelden, senden Sie eine Mail an:
To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to

You can reach the person managing the list at


This is very helpful. The new technology bit is you don't have to type
it out every time;  that is "the cruise control". 

This is not on the footer of every mail I receive from this group. 
Why not? It would be helpful.

One very small detail, but applicable to many areas.

> > On Thu, 2006-04-13 at 15:53 -0500, Darryl Caldwell also wrote:

>>we are worn down by the anxiety caused by the great number of things
>>we don't understand about computers.  

Then why am I not worn down by the anxiety caused the great number of
things I don't understand about the my car? Is it perhaps people are
being "helped" across a road they do wish to cross?

> > On Thu, 2006-04-13 at 15:53 -0500, Darryl Caldwell continued:

>>We have learned to not even try whenever we need to find out how to
do something on our own.

I think Google and its shareholders would disagree with you on this
Google is a very helpful machine if you know how to drive it.


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